It’s a big world we’re living in, and a big planet means big problems. Even as we focus a little extra attention on loving on the Earth this month, the environmental issues at hand — air pollution, poor waste management, water scarcity, climate change, and more — are so overwhelming that it can feel much easier to cross our fingers and hope that big-picture efforts to right the ship can fix it. Right? We get it.
We get it, but we want to empower you to do more than just cross your fingers. As intimidating as these literal planet-sized problems can feel, there are small steps that each of us can take to contribute to the solution — so small, in fact, that you can execute on them today, tomorrow, definitely this week. We wrote a post on ways we’re reducing plastic in our homes, and here are ten other ways to start.
10 Things You Can Do to Help The Environment Now
Like, right now.
1. Streamline your errands. Errands can be a total drag, but you can turn them into a game and love on the environment in the process by challenging yourself to condense that long list of to-dos as much as possible. Map out your route before you get started (maybe while you snack on a Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin?) and see how many of your must-do errands can be squeezed into one trip out of the house — and minimal mileage. You’ll save time for yourself and cut back on the amount of time spent on the road, which is great for air quality.
2. Donate to a food kitchen. Get ahead of the inevitable temptation to toss unused food and pantry items by gathering a box of things to donate right now. Find a local food kitchen, food bank, or other organization that needs what you already have and help them out. Getting proactive about culling your refrigerator and cabinets before your kitchen gets out of control will ensure that you don’t go on a full-on KonMari tear down the road, filling your garbage can with packaging and food that others would be happy to have.
3. Buy in bulk. If you find yourself restocking certain non-perishable items on a seemingly constant basis, it may be time to consider buying those items in larger quantities. When you buy in bulk, you cut back on the amount of packaging you consume, thus minimizing waste. You’ll also save yourself time in running future errands. Racking up wins everywhere!
4. Start saving scratch paper. Our world is mostly paperless these days, but it never hurts to have some paper around for making grocery lists and jotting down random notes to self. We love cute stationery as much as the next person, but let’s be real: all those sweet little notepads decorated with flowers or seasonal fruit are a needless expense and another place for us to be wasteful. Start collecting flyers, mail, and other scratch paper that still have plenty of space for your own writing. If you can’t see yourself building up much of a scratch paper collection, challenge yourself to cut back on random needless paper in other ways by letting store associates know ASAP that you don’t need a receipt printed or by swapping out your paper towels for reusable cloths.
5. Turn off the tap. If you’re caught up in the rhythm of your morning or bedtime routine, you may find yourself walking away from the sink while you brush your teeth, leaving the sink on so you can multitask — deal with an upset kid, choose an outfit, make a sandwich — while you brush. Well, multitasking will be the death of all of us and the environment if that’s how we do it. Let’s put an end to it! Turn off the tap for the majority of your tooth-brushing ritual. Over the course of your lifetime, all that running water can really add up!
6. Take control of junk mail. How much of your snail mail ends up in the garbage can or recycling bin before you even look at it? We’re willing to bet that the answer is some variation of a lot. Stop the madness and significantly reduce your paper waste by going paperless with your bank and utilities companies (you can usually adjust these settings online) and by removing your name from mailing lists with the help of DMAchoice. Your mailbox and the environment will both thank you.
7. Organize a carpool. Fewer cars on the road equals less dangerous emissions into the air we breathe. Invite some pals over, put out some wine and snacks (Crunchy Chickpeas, anyone?), and map out the driving you have planned over the next few weeks. Figure out where there’s overlap and start getting some carpools on the schedule, whether for yourself or your kid’s ride to school. Driving is more fun when you do it together, anyway.
8. Lay off the lights. Start paying closer attention to the way you use lights in your home or office. We get it — flicking light switches on and forgetting to flick them off is probably a reflex at this point, which is why it’s time to get intentional. Lights don’t need to stay on when you’re not in the room, right? Cutting back on electricity use helps the environment and reduces your electric bill, too.
9. Plant a tree. All it takes is a small plot of land and a shovel… and only a little time. Every tree creates an ecosystem and food for birds and other animals and improves the health of the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Plus, it’s a super tangible way to show your love for Mother Earth and will serve as a constant visual reminder that you have the power to make a difference to the environment.
10. Go veg for a day. We’re not at all suggesting that you go completely meat-free — only that challenging yourself for a day of vegetarianism here and there is one way to show your solidarity with our planet. Many meat farmers and manufacturers fail to engage in eco-friendly practices, causing the loss of water and nutrients, plus water pollution. Play your part in supporting farmers you trust and easing that burden by once and a while taking it easy on your meat consumption now and then.